Beyond the Republic of Fear: Symbolic Domination in Bacthist Iraq
Title: Beyond the Republic of Fear: Symbolic Domination in Bacthist Iraq
Author: LENNER, Katharina
Series/Report no.: EUI RSCAS; 2007/32; Mediterranean Programme Series
This paper explores the significance of official rhetoric, symbolism and cultural production as a social practice of domination in Bacthist Iraq. In order to make sense of this aspect of domination, it is necessary to go beyond the level of regime imagery and look at the ways in which systems of signification were upheld and, at times, subverted by different parts of the population. The shortage of studies dealing with this question regarding Bacthist Iraq must be seen in conjuncture with the main theoretical concepts employed so far, ‘traditional legitimacy’ and ‘totalitarianism’. By merely considering the content of official representation and speculating about its persuasiveness, both have precluded rather than invited closer examination of people’s everyday lives and the ways in which they related to the representation of authority. The notion of Bacthist Iraq as a totalitarian 'republic of fear' in particular has reduced domination to the spread of violence and fear and assumed its total grip on the population's minds. This paper will examine practices like mass displays of allegiance, the reiteration of official language or representations of violence as ambivalent forms of domination which invited a variety of responses from a diverse population. It argues for a new theoretical approach, which must be able to conceive the power of authoritarian states to shape ideas and bodies through symbolic-disciplinary practices as well as the possibility of subversion. Such practices sought to implicate Iraqis in the exertion of dictatorial domination without necessarily making them believe in the claims of the regime.
Subject: Iraq; Baath; domination; symbol; representation
Type of Access: openAccess